Jun 29 AT 9:23 AM Nick Gray 27 Comments

Google’s Android PDK could mean quicker updates for consumers


Lost is the flurry of this week’s Google I/O news was the announcement that Google has developed a PDK (platform development kit) for hardware manufacturers to help them port the latest version of Android to new or existing devices. At this time, no real details are known about the PDK, except that it will be available to Android partners 2-3 months before new Android releases are made available to the public.

So what does the release for the Android PDK mean for consumers?

While the PDK is intended to be a tool for hardware manufacturers and chip makers, its implementation should translate into more rapid deployments of Android updates to the end users. For a long time, Android users have blamed custom skins from OEMs for the delayed Android update, but we now know that component drivers bear the majority of the blame. If component and chip makers use the Android PDK to work in tandem with OEMs, Android updates could roll out to devices months quicker than they currently do.

Unfortunately, theories don’t always pan out the way they should. Google claims that key partners have had access to Android 4.1 for a while, so we’ll see how fast they can deploy the update once Google gives them clearance – presumably once the update gets pushed out to the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S and Motorola XOOM.

Do you think the Android PDK deployment will translate into more timely Android updates for consumers or will this simply fall by the wayside like the Android Update Alliance?

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • Tim

    this makes me feel the multi-nexuii rumor is way wrong

    • spazby

      why so?

    • professandobey

      This makes me feel the multi-nexuii rumor is way more right on!

      Developing a PDK would be easier if you’re already ironing out all the kinks on multiple hardware configurations, and ironing out all the kinks on multiple hardware configurations would be easier if you’re already developing a PDK. Work smarter, not harder.

    • Paul Atreides

      I never believed that rumor. It will be multiple Nexus devices(as we’ve seen this week), but it won’t be multiple Nexus phones from different OEM I’m highly doubting at this point. I predict skins will start to slim down a lot after Jelly Bean. Google has been doing a lot of nudging lately, I believe they are getting more protective of their green robotic baby.

      • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com DroidSamurai

        >> I predict skins will start to slim down a lot after Jelly Bean.

        I predict that your prediction will be proven wrong. No offensive, but the OEM is not satisfied with Google making money from selling apps, books, music, videos, etc. They are doing everything they could to put their “services” in places — TouchWiz doesn’t even place a shortcut to the Google Play Store in their ICS App Drawer! You think HTC and Samsung acquiring mSpot, HTC acquiring MOG for nothing? Mark my words here, the OEM is not going to back down on skinning, and Google, unless it’s willing to make and market Android phones for the general public (as opposed of hardcore Android fans), won’t do anything to stop them.

  • Slith

    I bet Verizon will still be six months behind and then blame the new PDK.

    • AppleFUD

      yep. . . doesn’t matter what Google does. It comes down to the OEMs and more importantly the carriers. Until one or more Android OEMs have enough power to strong are the carriers (doubt that will ever happen) not much will change.

      • phor11

        I agree to some degree.

        The carriers and manufacturers simply don’t have any incentive to put in the work to get devices updated after they’ve got your money and you’re locked into a contract.
        So it doesn’t really matter how much help Google tries to give them.

        However; now that Google is handling updates on the Gnexus and Nexus7, maybe frequent updates to those devices will make them more popular, which could finally be an incentive for OEM’s and Carriers to push updates quicker as well.

        • dusty

          The theory of manufactures taking your money and not pushing out updates seems a little counter productive. It would seem to me that the manufacture would want to extend the shelf life of a product as long as they can instead of draining profits by constantly researching and developing new hardware. The real problem is the carriers who demand extensive testing prior to an ota update release to ensure the product will hold up and the customer wont be returning the product due to a bug in the update. These returns if made through a customer return policy are a considerable cost to the carrier whom already absorbs significant subsidies on discounted phone purchases.

  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

    I think there needs to be a reason for mfr’s to focus on quick updates. Currently, it simply isn’t profitable for them to do so (or so they think). I hope I’m wrong but I actually see them saying, “Oh, hey, we get more time to work on updates. Let’s cut the teams in half that do that!”

    They’d rather have us feel like we need to upgrade every year. The longer we’re happy with a single phone, the less money they make on sales and the less free marketing they get from hype.

    Hope I’m wrong and more people look at ASUS and use their speedy delivery as an ideal candidate for how they should operate and I hope this helps in that process! I’m just not yet convinced it will.

    • fletchtb

      I hear what you’re saying and you’re probably right. But I think people are more inclined to stick with a manufacturer or switch to a manufacturer that has a reputation for quicker updates and that’s where the advantage lies.

      Now we need to find some leverage to convince the carriers that quicker updates are important too. As a Verizon customer in VT, I am having a hard time convincing myself to leave their 4G LTE network at the end of my contract when I doubt anyone else will be able to bring that kind of speed to the area anytime soon.

      • professandobey

        The same can be said about the durability of their hardware. They may be tempted to build their devices cheap enough that they fall apart after 1 year of normal use, and that may get them more sales in the short term, but eventually their reputation would be trashed giving them a long term problem.

        With Verizon’s Share Everything Plans set to increase my monthly bills dramatically and getting throttled under normal usage (streaming music, web browsing & some YouTube: no tethering whatsoever), I don’t care that their LTE network is the best. I’m leaving them in December of 2013.

  • redraider133

    This is another step in the right direction now if google could get the manufacturers to focus on less phones updates could come much quicker

    • professandobey

      I think market forces are already starting to and will continue to get the manufacturers to focus on less devices. The GS3 will be a hit, and Samsung will have an even higher profit margin due to having less distractions from tons of new devices. Other OEMs will follow suit to try to keep up.

  • bellken

    I hope the pdk helps us to get updates, and, to get them, quicker. Companies that do not support their products, do not deserve our support.

  • txbluesman

    I will surely let you know if I get my update next month.

  • Jajaofopobo

    YES!! its the same way the android alliance was supposed to ensure updates… oh wait

  • thaghost

    I’ll believe it when i see it.

  • rantmo

    I certainly hope that the PDK means that we’ll have timely updates and longer update lifespans for phones going forward but I’m not holding out much hope. I don’t blame Google by any stretch of the imagination, as has been said, it’s the OEMs that are to blame; they really don’t have any incentive to give us updates at all. There’s no downside to leaving us stranded in the vast wastelands of Gingerbread or earlier, yeah the die-hard fanboys and girls on Android blogs raise holy hell but sadly, we don’t appear to be a particularly potent market force. The general public doesn’t seem to know or care really; I’ve had a number of friends buy Android phones recently, and another friend who did a focus group test for an Android tablet and not a single one knew what version of the OS they were running. Moreover, none of them had any idea that the OS iterations were named for desserts. I would love for Google to be able to exert some real pressure on the carriers/OEMs to get updates out, or at least incentivize updates and update lifepans for devices. Until that happens, and I’m unwilling to hold my breathe, I’m going to do what little I am able and buy my next phone directly from Google.

    • professandobey

      If this is an important enough issue to people, you’ll see OEMs start to take note as it will affect their bottom line. If this is important to you, only buy companies with a good reputation for updates, and tell those you know to do likewise. Word will spread that companies like Asus will not abandon you after purchasing their product. Companies like Asus will continue to do well, and other companies will try to copy them, including their update efforts.

      • rantmo

        I sure hope that comes to pass, but I don’t think that the update experience thus far bears that out. I’m certainly intended to remain as informed as possible and to vote with my dollars, as the saying goes, and to keep friends and family informed as well. We’ll see, I guess.

  • trees247

    All I asked is to get Nexus phones on the carriers…..sell the like IPhones

  • alexanderharri3

    If Microsoft and Apple can get direct to device updates for their phones, why can’t Google do the same with Android?

    Well….it’s each manufacturers’ responsibility to make software that works for their phones….so there’s more split responsibilities…

    Europe does it, Apple does it, M$ does it…..it’s your turn Google – Phone creator to phone updates independent of carrier……or else Nexus on Verizon will continue to be the case.

  • Nathan D.

    Hopefully, this theory does come true.

  • Wheeled laptop bag

    Thanks lots for this info. Please keep up the good work.

  • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com DroidSamurai

    It’s not going to make update comes quicker — it’s an issue involving more than technical difficulties. It may, however, bring phones with newer OS to the market sooner.

  • serpa4

    Aa mentioned.ed earlier…updates don’t matter to 99%the of the android owners. Why developed updates for 1%. Those who are the wiser will buy a new phone or root. They are not the market or driving force of updates sadly.